We want you to gain knowledge and skills to make good decisions related to budgeting, borrowing, and repayment strategies.
STEP 1: Create an account with Money Smarts where you can develop a personal spending plan, or budget.
STEP 2: Track your expenses for a month
You can't know what to budget for if you don't know your spending habits. For a whole month, diligently track each purchase you make; from rent/mortgage bills, to gasoline and food and even your latte at the local coffee shop.
STEP 3: Categorize expenses
Now that you know what you spend your money on, start putting the expenditures into categories. Some suggested categories include: rent/mortgage, insurance, utilities, food, gasoline, school expenses, entertainment, dining out, savings, and credit/loan payments. Make a note if some of these are fixed (i.e. rent payments are the same every month) or variable (i.e. grocery bills, gasoline expenditures).
STEP 4: Total your monthly income
Figure out all sources of income for the month. If you are a contract worker and your paycheck fluctuates, figure out an average monthly income.
STEP 5: Total your monthly expenses and compare
Now that you know your monthly income and expenditures, do a comparison. Find out if your income is greater than your expenses or vice versa.
STEP 6: Make adjustments to your expenses
If your income exceeds your expenses, make sure you are paying yourself first. This means you place money into savings prior to using income for other expenses. You can also decide to set some of the extra money aside to pay down consumer debt like credit cards or student loans.
If your expenses are larger, you need to evaluate your spending habits and make adjustments to spend less on the more flexible categories such as dining out or entertainment. Once you set an allotment for each category, stick to it! Some may find that using cash or limiting trips to the ATM can help you stay on track. Remember to prioritize your needs versus your wants and spend accordingly.
STEP 7: Review your budget monthly
Monitor your budget monthly to see if other adjustments need to be made. If you find that one category is consistently overspending another, change the budget allotments. This will help keep you on track.